The Connecticut Department of Public Health is right to be concerned about the increased number of high school students vaping.

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in our nation, and e-cigarettes offer youths an opportunity to begin a harmful and lifelong addiction to tobacco, newly fueled by attractive devices and kid-targeted flavors. While we are glad to see that the FDA is being more transparent about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, it’s clear that we must act quickly and decisively on the state and local levels to protect our children from these products.

The good news is that there are meaningful legislative tools that have been proven effective in reducing tobacco use among youth. One of the most impactful policies we should pass is raising the age of sale of all tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – from 18 to 21.  In fact, the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) found increasing the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to 21 could prevent 223,000 deaths among people born between 2000 and 2019, including 50,000 fewer dying from lung cancer – the nation’s leading cancer killer.

Protect our Youth from Tobacco Use

Some of those children are Connecticut’s children – and we must work towards saving those precious lives.

The City of Hartford is considering passing an ordinance on this issue later this month.  We are encouraged to see the leadership displayed by its sponsors on the council, and we implore their colleagues to follow suit.

Hartford can lead the way for the state on an issue that is already taking hold across the county. With Hartford at the helm, Connecticut has an opportunity in the coming legislative session to become the seventh state in the nation to pass a statewide bill if state lawmakers are willing to show bold leadership when it comes to the health of our teenagers and young adults.  A statewide law raising the age of sale of tobacco would not only increase the efficacy of local laws, but also save the state millions in taxpayer dollars spent on tobacco related healthcare.

Today, 14 percent of high school students in the State of Connecticut use tobacco products – and  close to 95 percent of smokers try their first cigarette (or e-cigarette) before the age of 21.  It’s time we did more to take tobacco out of the equation for Connecticut’s youth.

Ruth Canovi is the Director of Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Connecticut.

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